I found Susan Hanley recently while I was researching SharePoint governance. She’s co-authored two books on the subject; I found them appealing and universal. I thought, “if she’s half as friendly in real life as she is in her books, I have to know her.” My gut instinct didn’t fail me. Read on, Dear Reader, and judge for yourself.

You have a strong background in knowledge management (KM).  Why did you choose this field? When did you move more into the content management (CM) discipline -- or do you feel you have?

I didn’t really choose KM -- it kind of chose me based on a job assignment. Of course, I now say that my interests, education and background play nicely into this discipline, but I didn’t really choose -- I got a project assignment that stuck!  I have a psychology undergraduate degree and an MBA in information systems management. At a crucial moment in my career, my manager asked me on behalf of our CEO to work on a KM initiative.

I was with a global consulting firm (American Management Systems) and our CEO felt that we needed to build communities of practice across the company to more effectively share best practices in our core disciplines. I was asked to head up the initiative and it turned out to be an incredible opportunity.  

The assignment happened early enough in the establishment of KM as a discipline that I got the opportunity to meet and network with some of the people responsible for the leading KM initiatives in the world. I was able to bring some of the early KM thought leaders in to AMS to help us learn and we were able to get on the radar of analyst firms like Gartner. We even had a Harvard case study written about our initiative. 

I have always viewed KM as being more about people and processes than about technology, but as the technology has evolved, the results have enabled the discipline to persist. I don’t think I’ve moved to content management at all -- I think it’s all fundamentally about bringing the right information to the right people at the right time so while my focus these days tends to be on implementing technology solutions; the solutions all have a KM objective.

Why and how does SharePoint motivate you? How did you come to be involved in the SharePoint story?

I was introduced to SharePoint before it was SharePoint -- when it was still called Tahoe. At that time, my company had become well-known for doing a good job at KM. We were a Lotus Notes shop, however -- we weren’t using Microsoft products. A local Microsoft team showed Tahoe to us. When they completed their presentation they asked our opinion. They basically tried to sell us on speeds and feeds, not business outcomes, so we told them we weren’t sure that they “got KM.”  We took a “watch and see” attitude. 

In 2000, I left AMS for Plural, a small Microsoft consulting firm. I was asked to head up the portals and collaboration practice. Plural was later acquired by Dell and for the next three years, I led that practice for Dell, implementing solutions pretty much exclusively on the Microsoft platform. I also represented first Plural and then Dell on Microsoft’s Partner Advisory Council (PAC) for Portals and Collaboration.

During that time, I was able to watch Microsoft and the SharePoint team start to talk about SharePoint’s business outcomes, not just technical features. And I definitely now think SharePoint evolved as a product and technology enabler for effective KM solutions.

Do you feel an effective SharePoint consultant has special skills sets in addition to the desired qualities of a consultant?

I think that there isn’t just one type of SharePoint consultant. Some tend to focus more on the infrastructure, some on application development and others on information architecture and business analysis -- and you need different skills for each type. At the most basic level, all good SharePoint consultants need to understand what business problems their clients need to solve and what outcomes their client wants to achieve. If you focus on outcomes, you can derive requirements to meet those needs.

How do *you* approach change management with your clients?

Effective change management starts with the same basic principle as good business analysis --understanding the business outcomes the client is trying to achieve with the new solution. But, to accomplish change management, you need to understand the culture of the organization. I often use the joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb when I talk about change management. It only takes one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.

It’s like that with people and new technology -- the technology either has to be vastly better than what they were previously using or there really has to be a really compelling reason to change. If the reason to change delivers value to the end user, change management is much less difficult. For me, one important key to change management is understanding how the solution delivers value to each key stakeholder community.

MOSS 2007 to SharePoint 2010: what are your top three favorite new features given the upgrade from MOSS 2007 to SharePoint 2010?

The ability to finally be able to easily maintain enterprise-level metadata, the ability to have hierarchical metadata and social computing.

What are you most concerned about re: limitations of SharePoint? What remains to be built by the Microsoft team?

I’m not expecting SharePoint 2010 to be everything -- so there are capabilities that I will always expect to find from third parties. But for now, I’m looking for a few little teeny features that Microsoft can do, like the ability to understand at a glance whether permissions have been broken on an item. I would love to see something like a lock icon on a list item so that users with appropriate permissions can quickly see if the items in a list have unique security just by scanning the list.

Can you guess what percentages of organizations have had MOSS 2007 for a while but are just implementing now? Are you advising them to prepare their environment for SharePoint 2010? How so?

If you really want a percentage, talk to Microsoft. I do have some clients with SharePoint 2003 legacy systems that have not yet been migrated, but most are using MOSS 2007. This is a great moment, because all of my clients are migrating already, planning to migrate or at least thinking about preparing for SharePoint 2010.

Client relationships & governance: what elements have the best client implementation incorporated? Or, how do you map your client’s needs to the best tools for them?

Number one: I don’t typically recommend specific tools. I suggest types of tools when I think there is a need for them. Many of the third party tools that my clients need first are those that support infrastructure and maintenance, which are not my areas of expertise. 

From a governance perspective, there are tools that help, but you need the policies first -- in other words, you can’t get a tool to do your governance plan. You still need to do the hard work. But you ask for an example of a best practice governance approach? The organization I believe is the most successful empowering business users has set up a “center of excellence” at their headquarters level to support end users. 

The center of excellence provides consulting to business unit partners who are implementing individual SharePoint sites. They also have templates for various types of business needs, but I think what makes them a best practice team is that they provide coaching by experts to ensure that newly empowered business users can be successful.

Your average end user doesn’t necessarily study MOSS 2007 architecture. What major themes do you use to explain the differences between configurations versus customization?

Why do end users need to know that, anyway? You should be giving them a template with all the best practices built in.

How does a private company’s implementation differ from a public company’s?

It’s not always matter of private versus public, but there are some differences in regulated versus unregulated. It’s all about risk and compliance. For example, blogs tend to be perceived as bigger risks at financial institutions and law firms.

What’s next? What’s hot in the next three months? What trends are you watching?

I am paying a lot of attention to what’s going on in the social computing space. I’m an information architect and I’m also really watching the search space and how social and authoritative metadata can improve overall information “findability,” which is what pretty much every organization wants to do.

What future integration of products would you like to see? Is there a product integration you’ve seen from one of your client sites that surprised you? (Web 2.0, IRM, imaging product for example)

Ask me that in six months.

I will. Outside of your co-author pool, who do you follow? Who belongs in your “go-to” group of colleagues who you admire? 

One of my favorite KM quotes is “Life didn’t take over the world by combat but by networking.” I have a group of go-to people for different types of questions. My network also includes all the amazing clients I’ve been able to work with over the years. I go back to former clients a lot to check in and see what they can teach me about the solutions we’ve implemented together. 

The people in the SharePoint and KM community are pretty awesome. They’re the most unselfish people I’ve ever met. I can’t think of a single time when I’ve called someone to ask for help and they haven’t dropped what they are doing to answer my questions and help me out. And I do the same for them. That’s why I really like what I do.